Thursday, September 30, 2010

KAL starts tomorrow!

The Sock Knit Along starts tomorrow on Ravelry! Although most of the participants will be doing the Ploughed Acre Socks from Knit Green, I am going to do Mary Jane Socks from Fiber Gathering. I even got the skein of yarn all ready in a ball to start knitting right away on October 1. (For those that know me, yes, that yarn has purple, green, blue, black, and even a bit of white in it. Perfect to match nearly everything in my wardrobe.)

The hole across the street that used to be a house? Today they poured concrete for the new building's foundation. I could watch the process from my office. After the truck left, the workers walked the top of the wooden shell, carefully smoothing out the concrete at the top.
It's hard to see here through the trees but it was quite an interesting thing to watch. I'm sorry I didn't catch a photo of the enormous yellow crane thing they used to shoot the concrete into the wooden foundation molds...every time I got up from my loom (I wove today) I watched the action! Despite these photos, it was a very sunny day today. I shot these through a window, and the window itself is, well, a bit cloudy.

It's been a quiet but very joyful day here. Lots of sunlight and a breeze to dry some laundry outdoors on the clothes line, some dog cuddles, and I wove about half a rug. Tonight is the first weaving guild meeting of the year, too.
Tomorrow, I get to start my first KAL with friends and I have plenty of time to knit tomorrow for starters! What could be better?
(Mint chocolate chip ice cream with fudge sauce? World peace? A self-cleaning house?)

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

away in wool and sunshine

I've been away from the computer lately, enjoying a visit with my father. The happy confluence of sunshine, warm fall weather, and time to be outside took precedence over all else! We had friends over to our sukkah for wine tasting and dinners and desserts. We had fancy cheeses and 2 kinds of fish and homemade potato/leek soup. We've had make your own pizza night and fudge brown pie and apple pie and...lots of ice cream on top. We also ate out at lots of restaurants with my dad. It's been a great few days together.

While my dad was here, we took a boat ride on the river. We happened to pass the Manitoba Legislature Building, and you can see from this shot that it was a) a beautiful day and b)we've had more than our share of rain this season. (Look at the steps...underwater.) You might remember this view from 2008, when I took the boat tour for the first time and spotted a spinner right here...where the water is now. Here's a link to another sunny day in drier times! When our boat ride went under one of Winnipeg's bridges, we saw the knitting installation that crossed the bridge 2.5 times! It was a weekend full of arts and activity here.
Also, because it was Culture Days, there were events all over the city. We stopped to watch First Nations' drumming and hoop dancers. We saw big hoop dancers...and little ones.
My father left on Monday morning and began his long drive home. He complained while he was here that he hadn't gotten to see any moose. I mentioned that wasn't surprising--they don't just hang out on city street corners waiting for tourists to spot them. Imagine my surprise when he just happened upon not one but several moose on his drive east through rural Ontario. He even got a photo!
My recent photos are of more domesticated things...In my basement, I've got, oh, about 10 fleeces or so. I spent today packing up 7 of them to be sent off for processing. In order to do this, you have to stuff the wool tightly into bags. It's a bit like putting your sleeping bag in a stuff sack if you're more familiar with camping terms. Imagine doing that for a couple of hours or so. Right. It's been sort of a long day in the basement.
The good news is that I've got them almost ready for their trip to the post office. We're taking a drive on Friday to mail off some things south of the border in the U.S. This isn't worthwhile, say, for one small package, but if you've got multiple things to ship and need a little drive out of town, it seems like a nice day out. I'm excited because the Sock Knit Along starts on Friday, October 1st. I seem to have organized several hours of knitting in the car to coincide with the start of the KAL, and I can't wait!

In the meanwhile, it's off to prepare Cotswold and Cotswold cross wool, Jacob/Icelandic cross, Icelandic, and Romney wool for mailing. Hope you're having a warm, sunny fall day!

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Party like it's Sukkot

This is our first official Sukkah in Manitoba! Last year we were just too busy trying to cope with our real house and our new lives in another country to build one. This year, the Professor got it up quickly, with the help of a friend who cycled by to help. The greenery on top came directly from an enormous lilac bush in the front yard. It's now substantially smaller, and I'm pleased about that, too!

At first, it seemed like it might be too rainy and cool to be outside too much, but tonight is different. It is already sunny and drying up, and I imagine that we could have a lovely meal outside this evening, beginning with hot soup to warm us from inside. That forecast's good, because we have a series of dinner guests coming over. Tonight, Sunday night, and onward into next week, I think. Luckily, the weather seems to be cooperating.

We like this holiday because it combines being outside with talking about being thankful for the harvest, and connects us with long ago ancestors. A nice sort of living history exercise, really...

That said, we've found our new gas fireplaces very warming and look forward to sitting inside next to those as it gets cold, as well!

Now, briefly back to the last post. The four comments left were so insightful that I had nothing to add and couldn't quite figure out what else to say. I've also had several people say to me on the phone or via email that they too understood this conflict...and yes, while one can buy something at a big box store for much much less, some of us will always prefer handmade, locally made, one of a kind objects instead. It's nice to know that the "handmade" folks are out there too. I don't think the handmade metaphor is there just for fiber arts though--it extends as well to most things. Experts often cost more (in consulting costs, or whatever!) but may also be worth it in the long run. After all, as one commenter wrote... "Wrong Answers, only $5, Dumb Looks? Free!"

I am likely to be wrestling with these issues for a long time. In the meanwhile, it is off to make potato leek soup and to get ready to enjoy a party out of doors. Have a good weekend! Make sure to celebrate harvest! :) (Unless, of course, you are like my best bud, Dr. Anne, who just moved off to live in that other hemisphere, where it is which case, never mind...!)

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Monday, September 20, 2010

creating stuff from scratch

Our October sock KAL is still open to joiners! Visit our group on Ravelry and say which socks you think you'll be doing. The options include Ploughed Acre Knee Socks from Knit Green, Mary Jane Socks from Fiber Gathering, and three other pairs of socks: Molly Baby Socks (an interesting sock knit on straight needles, ideal for toddlers or kids, available both on Ravelry and my website), Heart's Ease Socks, a stranded knitting pattern available on Ravelry, my website, and at a special rate here, and finally, these Polka Dot Socks, available on Ravelry, my website, in Tops and Toes, a book available for sale, and also at Knit Picks online.

Now, on to our regular post...last night, after a busy day, I couldn't sleep. This may have been because of a supposedly decaffeinated cappucino I had after a dinner out, or because my charming Professor had a stuffy nose and was snoring to beat the band. (It happens sometimes to the best of us!)

I got up and wove on my loom in the next room. At first I worried the noise would wake somebody up, but one human and two dogs slumbered on, so the weaving happened for about an hour until I could fall asleep. I was thinking particularly about is a partial quote from a comment, but the sentiment is pretty common:

"I... would love to see more pictures and details. That's something I'm interested in doing as well."

I struggle with this kind of request. On one hand, many of the things I do--teaching, fiber arts (spinning, weaving, knitting, dyeing), writing, etc. --are things that I believe should be within reach for many people. What I mean by that is that people have lots of potential. As a teacher, I believe that I can help people learn, whether I am teaching them to write, or doing a Religious Studies workshop, or teaching them to spin. I believe that for a determined person, many things are possible.

On the other hand, at the same time, we all have gifts. These are things we're good at when compared to other people. Do we deserve to be compensated specially for our gifts? Should we use our gifts in our professional lives? Should our gifts be our livelihood?

Many of the things that might be called my "strengths" are things that are traditionally offered for free or for less than a fair wage. For instance, for many generations, women passed along their fiber art skills to their friends, neighbors and children. These same women were sometimes were natural born teachers. Eventually, women teachers were paid for their work in school houses all over North America...and often earned much less than male school teachers. The same is true, of course, for instruction in religious topics. Even though I have an academic graduate degree in this, many times this sort of knowledge is offered up for free.

Sometimes I'm paid to teach for a short time, and then someone (without this training) concludes that it would be better and easier if they did this for free...and I'm relieved of my "duties."

So, the question becomes--how much information should I offer for free? I think there are several options, using a fiber arts context as an example:
1) Pretend it is all top secret, and offer very little. (this looks stingy..)
2) Write up the instructions for any projects I mention, and try to sell them.
3) Offer all the information for free, with the understanding that not everybody has the same gifts and that somehow good fortune will come to me through this notion.

What is the answer? Well, lately I have been creating finished fiber arts goods for a juried craft sale. It's called the Handmade Holiday Sale (this is from last year's sale) and it will be held in November at the West End Cultural Centre here in Winnipeg. It is run by the Manitoba Craft Council and I applied and competed to be accepted into this juried event. The rugs you've seen me feature on the website will be for sale there.

Anybody could make these rugs. Anybody who:
-sourced mill ends and locally made materials
-used handspun and knew how to spin to produce weaving materials
-hand-dyed materials to the right colors for the rugs in question
-had a floor loom suitable for creating rugs
-could do a simple weave or twill tie up
-could refer to a few books on rug weaving
-could find the time to produce one to two rugs a week whenever possible!

I really believe that anyone with reasonable intelligence and determination can learn most anything. The question for me as a teacher is, at what level do I start explaining things? Do I start with learning to spin, weave or knit? Do I start with "this is the tie up for this particular loom?" I am not sure.

Of course, beyond this is the question I have to face as a freelancer and small business owner. How will I earn a living doing things like this? When is it worthwhile to ask for compensation? What should I give away for free? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this...

More next time on our beautiful new sukkah--Sukkot starts this week!

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

sitting by the fire & a KAL

If you've been reading my blog a while, you may remember our fireplace saga. Yesterday was the big day. The day where we got the new gas fireplaces installed. It was also the day I had a doctor's appointment (I'm fine, thanks) and the Professor's first class lecture, but we're talking about fireplaces here. This was, by the way, the third time these had been scheduled for installation. Something always happened. It rained. The crew couldn't make it. Whatever...we've been working on this for nearly a year, and the scaffolding for the chimney repair went up at the end of June, and finally--Houston, we have fireplaces that work!

(This first photo is of the professor's study...On the top shelf there are his diplomas. Below that? The dogs' obedience certificates...and below that, TA DA, a working gas fireplace.)

There are a couple of minor repairs still to be done. This rounded shape fireplace in our living room works just fine but leaves a couple of spaces where you can see the old fire box at the top left and right. We're having an additional piece of metal made to fit snugly around the outside of it. This is because I imagined having a preschool visitor (my nephew, perhaps?) pitch plastic action figures in those triangular, tiny holes and then tearing apart the fireplace or the house to retrieve them before they melted or caught on fire. Uh---No.
We're waiting for that, and then it will all be done. Hurray!

(In the living room photo here, you'll see the dog sculpture we have guarding the new fireplace. It keeps folks and dogs from backing into something hot and dangerous. Harry only tried to play with the dog sculpture once before he figured out it wasn't a real dog. Smart guy, huh?)

I am working away on this dusty rose rug. The good news? I have more than half done. The bad news? I ran out of wool dyed the right color. I dyed another pound of wool yesterday in the middle of the fireplace installation. The workers hardly noticed... really, the chaos was huge. It matches well enough so I bet you can't see where the old wool ended and the newly dyed stuff began. Sheer luck, that...

Now, about this KAL thing. That stands for Knit Along. No idea who thought of this abbreviation, which I always thought of as K.A.L. Then a knitter friend and a pastor's wife I knew in Kentucky said --with a big Southern accent, "I just can't keep up with all these Cals I'm doing!" (Did I mention her husband was named David?)

I nearly keeled over with the effort but I managed not to laugh. I knew there had to be some sort of misunderstanding on my part...after all, she did look stressed out and worried.

Yes, now where was I? I've never done one of these KAL things...never participated or run one. Don't even know how to say it, as a matter of fact! Some friends suggested I try it out, so in October, we're doing the Seiff Sock KAL over on Ravelry. There are 4 different patterns available for socks I've designed, and you can choose any of those to participate. If you're interested, hop on over there and join the fun!

Harry the dog has already taken up residence in an armchair, directly facing the new gas fireplace in the living room. He is ready for colder weather and serious winter sock knitting to commence!
I hope some of you will join us! (beside the fireplace or the KAL, either way...)

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

new projects for a new year

The Jewish New Year started last week (Rosh Hashanah) and the new year is 5771. It's a tradition to wear new clothes for the new year, and I wanted to finish that endless purple sweater so I could wear it to a friend's house for a holiday dinner, and for services on Thursday. I managed it. I haven't managed a photo of the sweater in use, as taking pictures isn't really something we do on this holiday. It's really supposed to be a time to go to synagogue, to see friends and family, to eat great big holiday meals and to rest. No errands, no chores, etc. I did rest, although I had a hard time avoiding the outside world this time...others' errands and a doctor's appointment happened "to me" even though I tried to avoid them!

Anyhow, I caught a photo of this sweater today while hanging it on a radiator. Our heat is now coming on occasionally as we're beginning to see cooler fall temperatures. This is a Debbie Bliss pattern, knit with Zara, a DK weight Merino wool. I sometimes knit other folks' patterns to see how they do things. My favorite part of this pattern was the pleated "bustle" in the back. I managed to catch a photo of that today, although I'm wearing blue jeans and not dressed up to match the sweater.
I was also able to finish the weaving of this rug made from mill ends that I purchased in May at Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. The edges still need to be finished, but it is now off the loom.

Last week I dyed some of the Brown Sheep Wool Mill Ends that I also got in May. I did a pound of this as a dusty rose (pictured here) and a pound of bright red. Here's the start of the next rug. When I dyed these, I discovered that the wool is mixed with a bit of mohair in places, so there is a shimmer and luster to this rug that I wasn't expecting. I'm enjoying seeing the surprise of it as I weave it up!
Now I am on to thinking about designing myself a new sweater. When I am not designing for others, I delve into my stash. I like to buy "souvenir" yarn when I go on vacations. This combo is now enough for a sweater...but the mohair/wool boucle (on a cone) is from Cushendale Woollen Mills in Ireland-I think we were there in 2005. The DK and laceweight weight wool is from a trip to New Zealand and Australia, and I used some of the DK yarn for my Two Point Scarf design. (the pattern is available for download both on Ravelry and from my website.) I was worried that I would not have enough matching yarn for my sweater ideas, so I visited my closest Local Yarn Shop--Wolseley Wool. (They've just moved to a new shop down the block from Wolseley Wardrobe!) There I found some Peruvian alpaca in just the right shade at my local Canadian yarn shop...on close out because they were in the midst of moving.
I'm looking forward to making the sweater...and I'm pretty sure there won't be another one like it! Not anywhere in the world! It's the souvenir Ireland/New Zealand/U.S./Canadian/Peruvian yarn.
Finally, I am inspired by all this red to mention one last thing. I discovered that I have been written up in the Cornell Alumni Magazine this month. Scroll down, I'm just past the person who does President Lincoln re-enactments! It makes me sound a little more clever than I actually am--I'm no expert at sewing, for one thing--but I'm honored to be mentioned there. I'm a proud Cornellian.
...So, got any neat new projects for fall?

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

What I did on my long weekend...

by Joanne --who isn't starting school right now, but can't help but write the 'back to school' composition...
#1. We went apple picking at a neighbor's tree on the next block. (we asked permission first!) I put up a lot of food. Roasted tomatoes, pureed, tomato sauce in freezer, dehydrated tomatoes (sundried tomatoes...), 5 quarts of apple pie filling, 2 quarts of "everlasting slaw" and we still had this left over...3+ large bags of apples. I also gave a lot of apples away and I can now close my refrigerator again. Whew!

#2. The Professor bought me these cool bags from Shipley Cargo made out of upholstery fabric remnants. As some of my friends know, I love me some bags and have way too many. Of course, you can never have too many knitting bags, although I am eyeing one or both of these as purses. I only ever manage to carry around one purse and never change it out until it's worn out, so we'll see how this goes...

#3. By Monday, I was completely worn out and insisted on some quality knitting time on the couch. I listened to The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East while I knit on the endless purple sweater. The Professor caught this photo of me in my very favorite knitting location...the couch, with Sally on the left and Harry on the right. Sally was asleep too until the camera started to click.

#4. The sweater has now been blocked and I hope to start sewing it up this evening. In the best of all possible worlds, I would have it ready to wear for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which starts later this week. I may be dreaming, but then, I thought this endless project would be done in January 2010, so well, a person can dream...

#5. The end of this week also is the end of Ramadan, so it's an auspicious time for holidays! 'Eid Mubarak! L'shanah tova v'metukah!
(Happy 'Eid! Happy and sweet new year!)

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Friday, September 03, 2010


I've really enjoyed all your canning and preserving comments so I am going to keep the theme going here.

This week, I made cornichon flavored pickles. Seven pints of them. I didn't have little tiny gherkins so instead I sliced up yellow lemon cucumbers and enormous, size of your arm, killer green cucumbers and pickled those. In fact, I felt sure that if I didn't get those huge cucumbers cut up and into jars they would become the superhuman monster cucumbers that took over Winnipeg and killed us all in the middle of the night. You know, so I made more pickles. (Yes, I am scared of vegetable monsters. I think a zucchini the size of a baseball bat might come out of a closet and kill me sometime, and I don't even like zucchini all that much.)

I felt ahead. I felt calm. Then Thursday came, time to pick up more veggies as part of my farm share, and my friend said--"Oh, my in-laws gave me these apples." Right. Some apples...think two enormous shopping bags' worth. I love apples, so she gave them to me. Today I made 6 pints of spiced apple sauce, and earlier in the week I made pie with some other apples someone gave us and....I feel a little out of control. We still have a full bag and a third of these apples left, and no room in the refrigerator.

In order for this to be a knitting blog, I need to post photos of knitting. Most of the knitting I do is top secret or if not top secret, maybe just boring. However, my desk looks about how I feel right now...this is only part of my desk, too. Every surface sort of looks like this. A little disorganized, but clearly a work in progress. A clutter work in progress, perhaps?

Last night in bed, the Professor and I were talking about all this. I haven't quite calmed down yet from teaching every day, so I guess I'm on warp speed. I mean, today I baked 4 loaves of challah, canned 6 pints of apple sauce, wrote the draft of an article (1000 words), vacuumed some, walked the's a little much still. I kept saying, in my conversation with him, how I just needed to, ummm, get things a little calmer. more organized. Like, I want to settle down soon, you know?

"I understand," he said. "Do you think that you'll feel better when everything in the house is organized into little jars on shelves in the basement?"

Funny, huh? The sad part? Yes, I just might. Unfortunately, my first concern was that we might run out of jars. Time for a long weekend, you think?

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